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Accessing the deeper levels of trauma stored in our cellular memory

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated. Please use my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. It is more efficient, more powerful and clearly explained in my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™.  Best wishes, Gary

Hi Everyone,

Emma Roberts, one of our highly skilled EFT'ers in the UK, reminds us that trauma can have many subtle roots. In this well written article she shares her thoughts on dealing with them.

Hugs, Gary

By Emma Roberts

The purpose of this article is to explore using EFT to find and release the deeper more subtle impacts of trauma and how we store it in our cellular memory through our senses.  I am increasingly curious as to how we can access this easily and EFT is a perfect bridge to doing this.  EFT seems to offer us a clear path between the conscious and unconscious mind and as such we have a unique opportunity to experience healing at a cellular level. 

Given the increasing correlation between trauma and serious disease I feel it is vital that we keep exploring and expanding our horizons in truly clearing the deeper roots of our memory.  The effects of trauma appear in many different guises, not always obvious, and often we need to harness our creativity to experience total long term freedom.

We all experience the world through our senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.  It is how we make sense of what is going on around us.  Recently I have been getting increasingly curious as to how we store trauma in our sensorial memory.  In NLP terms we refer to our senses as our Representational Systems and group them under visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (including the senses of smell and taste).

Of course, we are already utilising the senses in our EFT work.  We use the visual channel with the Movie Technique, helping the client to create physical distance from their memory, dissociating from it in order to reduce their emotional intensity.  We take this one step further with Tearless Trauma using double dissociation.

Many of our frequently asked questions when we are testing our work may be about voice tone or the words of people involved, using the auditory channel.  Words carry enormous power and are our main means of conscious communication with the world, and therefore with our clients.

People often are concerned with the language of EFT, are they saying the right thing, are they doing it properly?  Do the words matter?  The answer is yes … and no!  A skilled practitioner will be very elegant with their language skills, particularly when reframing, but ultimately whatever words the client uses are right, because they are their words. 

The key point is to notice their response to their words, check the meaning the client is giving them, the tonality, the emphasis and keep testing by feeding them back.  There are countless examples of Gary working in this way.  One of my favourites is his session with Rachel (Palace of Possibilities ) where he works with her ‘pits’ on her face, playing with her language and elegantly assisting her to change her self-image.  Think of how many meanings the word ‘pits’ has!

When you listen carefully to a client’s language you will hear how they are accessing their traumatic memory, which is their primary representational system in that moment.

Are they saying: 

  • I can see him over there
  • It looks like this
  • I don’t want to look at it


  • It sounds too frightening
  • I just don’t want to hear it again
  • I cant talk about it


  • I don’t want to go there
  • I don’t want to live through that experience again
  • It feels too frightening for me
  • It makes me feel sick

Your work will be even more effective if you literally ‘speak their language’.  You will gain strong unconscious rapport and facilitate faster healing. 

However, whilst these skills are extremely useful in enhancing all our work, trauma is often more complex than this and is stored in many different layers in our unconscious mind and cellular memory.  I am increasingly aware of the messages in our bodies.  The body does not lie and when it is evidencing some form of negative response, be it serious disease, chronic pain or an inability to function at some level, there is always an underlying emotional contributor, and sometimes this can be heavily disguised.

I have been working with a lady called Jane (not her true name) over a period of some months on relationship issues, which has led us to focus in particular on one very extreme episode of childhood sexual abuse.  It was ‘just’ the one, so in EFT terms a very neat succinct specific event.

Whilst Jane was aware of the memory it was difficult for her to talk about it and we spent several sessions sneaking up on it until she felt safe enough to work with it.  During this time we also worked through the obvious physical feelings which presented such as shortness of breath and discomfort in her stomach.

Even though I don’t want to go there…

Even though I don’t want to look at it…

Even though I don’t want to remember it…

Even though it doesn’t feel safe…

Even though I don’t want to do it…

Even though I can’t talk about it…

We very gently tapped around the thought of working with this memory until it became safe to begin to approach it.  We began with Tearless Trauma, getting Jane to very quickly create a movie, give it a title, put it behind a screen, and guess at the intensity if she were to watch it.  I like to use some physical object in the room to put the movie behind so that it is totally out of sight, and often I will move myself between it and the client!  Jane’s movie was called ‘The Barn’, and she guessed that her level of intensity would be 10 ++ on a scale of 0 to 10.

We gently worked around ‘The Barn’ movie and ‘The Barn’ emotion until the intensity dropped to a 3, always checking for any physical response.  The remaining 3 was showing up in her stomach and she labeled it ‘apprehension’.  We tapped some more on ‘this barn apprehension in my stomach’ until she felt safe to look at the movie.

As Jane looked at the title of the movie, ‘The Barn’, the intensity went up briefly, but quickly calmed and she was able to run the entire movie, lasting under 10 minutes, zooming in on the particular pieces that still got her and tapping systematically to clear them.  After several rounds, with much testing, she reported feeling OK about it, although she still didn’t like it. 

Clients often say this, as if by somehow releasing the emotional intensity the memory should become acceptable.  I will ask whether, if I was watching their movie, I would like it?  To which the answer is almost always a resounding no.  This is a very important point in our work, releasing the emotional attachment to a specific memory, letting it go, does not mean that is suddenly becomes OK.  A horror movie is always a horror movie, nothing changes that, but by letting go of our response to it in the present we have a choice as to whether to watch it any more.  We have freedom from it.

However, whilst Jane reported feeling clear on the memory itself, she was beginning to get migraines between sessions.  She had always suffered from them but they were getting much more frequent and much more ferocious.  It seemed to be that as the memory was collapsing so her unconscious mind was communicating with us in some way.  There was some piece that we clearly hadn’t resolved that seemed to be determined to get our attention by creating these migraines. 

We worked with the migraines, but still they came, we managed to take the edge off them, but they were still pretty persistent.  Then one day Jane was in my office and she said ‘It is really weird, when I get these migraines my sense of smell is very very acute.’  I just suddenly thought that we hadn’t worked with the smells of the memory. 

So I said to her, when you think of that movie are there any smells that might be related to this.  She wrinkled up her nose and retched, saying ‘Yes, disgusting, I can’t bear that’.  As it turned out there were a number of different smells associated with that memory, there were the physical sexual smells, and there were also the smells of the locality, a very dusty grubby barn full of oily agricultural equipment and petrol fumes. 

It wasn’t until we had worked through each of those separately that the migraines began to disappear and are now completely gone.  This was also a key turning point in her relationship work, and she was able to contemplate truly enjoying a sexual relationship for the first time.

One of the interesting things about this was that we were working without words.  We had a Set Up Statement, but no Reminder Phrase, so when tapping the points we used no words at all.  Words would have interrupted the process, would have got in the way of Jane’s unconscious mind processing this work and filtering it through her senses, through her nose.

We used the following Set Up Statements:

Even though I can really smell that smell…

Even though it was disgusting…

Even though repulsive smell got up my nose…

Even though I can smell him now…

Even though it smelt so dirty…

Even though he stank…

Reflecting on this session later I realised that the nose is a direct channel to the brain.  Smells are very powerful.  Think of the smells that are evocative for you.  Freshly mown grass, coffee, fresh bread.  Where do those smells transport you?  How do you feel when you smell them?

This experience taught me that even though a client reports no longer having any emotional response to a particular trauma it may well still be having an impact at a cellular level.  If a client has physical symptoms which seem to be unrelated discover exactly what happens when the symptoms appear (in this case, the acute sense of smell).  The layers of trauma can be complex and challenging to unearth, although not always. 

Another client, James, presented with panic attacks which seemed to have arisen out of nowhere.  He couldn’t work out what was happening.  We worked on the anxiety, the anxiety about the anxiety, the fear of the anxiety and the fear of panic attacks, all the obvious routes.  I find that when working with panic attacks it is useful to begin working globally on the fears and anxieties around the issue, as until you can get a shift in these, the anxiety can create an impenetrable cloud around any more specific work.

Having done this we then worked on the specific panic attack memories, reducing the emotional intensity on each of them to zero.  At this point we were able to begin to look for the core issues which created the behaviour in the first place.

This led us back to when they started, which was after a minor car accident on an icy road.  We worked through the memory in minute detail, discovering what James was seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling … who was there, etc.  As we continued to tap on the various aspects it was as though a cloud had lifted and allowed his unconscious mind the opportunity to communicate, and he said, “It is red, the colour red! … I can see someone walking past in a red jumper (sweater)  just as I hit the lamp post.  I thought I was going to hit him!”  So we tapped on the man in the red jumper:

Even though he could not do anything…

Even though I thought I was going to kill him…

Even though I was out of control and was going to hit him…

Even though I thought I would hurt him…

Even though I never spoke to him…

Even though I must have terrified him…

Even though I couldn’t say sorry to him…

I was in a position where I could test the work.  I don’t have anything red in my practice room but I do have a red cardigan so I was able to go and get it and test it very very gently with him.  He was fine with it, and has never had another panic attack.

As you read this article I do hope that it sparks some interest, some excitement in you, some sense of curiosity, to see whether you too notice these phenomena, when you notice where trauma may be stored in the unexpected places; also noticing just how easily EFT bridges the conscious and unconscious minds, allowing the unconscious to offer this information if we only open ourselves up to receiving it.

Emma Roberts


Explore our newest advancement, Optimal EFT™, by reading my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™. More efficient. More powerful.